By Dane Feldman
All photos by Lauren Hawker.
Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to meet with Dominique Ansel, head pastry chef at Dominique Ansel Bakery and creator of the now world-famous Cronut. People have been lining up around the block for weeks to try the Cronut and the line happened to be longest on last Wednesday morning than ever before. The bakery opens at 8am on Tuesdays-Saturdays and is sold out of Cronuts by about 9:30, Ansel says.
Despite his success (Ansel and his bakery have been the recipients of many awards since it opened in 2011) and recently acquired celebrity status, Ansel remains humble and dedicated to his work. When I entered the bakery, I was surprised to find that he was greeting customers and helping the cashiers prepare orders. He also spends a good portion of his mornings with other pastry chefs working to produce enough Cronuts to supply to eager customers as well as greeting the customers on the street as they enter the bakery.
Ansel and I sat outside on the bakery’s beautiful and secluded patio to chat. I told him that I wanted to get to know the man behind the Cronut a bit.
“It was a dream for me to open my own shop,” he says with a smile when we first sat down.
The constant coverage on the Cronut craze, patent issues, and imposters has really overshadowed Ansel and his creativity. I expected him to seem tired and even irritated, but instead he was chatty, confident, and passionate. He spoke of his first job working in a kitchen 20 years ago and how, from then on, he intended to one day open his own bakery.
Ansel opened his bakery in 2011 and first introduced the Cronut in May of 2013. What truly amazes me is that his bakery was wildly successful well before the Cronut craze began. Ansel’s diligence goes beyond the nearly 20 years it took him from first working in a kitchen to opening up his own bakery here in NYC. Despite his success, Ansel wanted to create more. It took him two months of testing 10 varying recipes before finally perfecting the Cronut. His hard work has certainly paid off.
Though like many, if you don’t have the time to stand in line for July’s Blackberry Cronut, you can pre-order them or you can try one of Ansel’s other delectable treats. In fact, his favorite (and best-selling) product isn’t even the Cronut, but the DKA, or Dominique’s Kouign Amann — a sweet, flaky, light, and buttery pastry, which is Ansel’s take on the Kouign Amann, which originated in Brittany, France.
Regardless of the Cronut craze, it’s clear that Ansel loves his job. When we finished speaking, he stood and went straight to the patrons seated next to us. He introduced himself and as I left, I could hear him asking how long they stood in line and if they were enjoying their experience. He sets a wonderful example for those of us foodies striving to make it in the industry to stay humble and to not forget our passion when we hit it big.